Evan Almighty Picked as AL Rookie of the Year
Evan Longoria did not start at third base for the Tampa Bay Rays’ on Opening Day 2008. He was nestled in a room in Durham, North Carolina thinking about how to better himself and get back to St. Petersburg for the rest of the 2008 season. But also in the works during this time was a huge contract for their young star that would relieve all stress and anxiety for him for a long time as a Tampa Bay Rays.
Most people were undecided as to if you give such a long term contract to a guy who has not even set foot on a MLB field during the regular season. Rays front office managment saw the deal as a precursor to the rising cost of keeping young talent, but also gave financial stability to the future payroll of their club. No one in either camp was sure what 2008 would hold for Longoria, but the future was set and he could relax and just play baseball until he got his shot in St. Petersburg, Florida.
He finally arrived after 11 games, and the Ray’s rookie only missed playing time due to a severe wrist injury in 2008. Longoria became the first rookie in Rays history today to take home the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year trophy.
Longoria was a unanimous choice by the Baseball Writers Association of America today. Longoria got 28 first place votes to outpace second place finisher, Chicago White Sox second baseman Alexi Ramirez, 140-59. All 28 possible first place ballots went to Longoria.
After coming back up to the Rays on April 12th, Longoria played in the next 104 games — 103 of those starts — hitting mostly fifth and cleanup, until he suffered a fractured right wrist after being hit by a pitch from Mariners closer J.J. Putz on Aug. 10 in Seattle. Longoria did not return to the lineup until Sept. 13.
Despite missing 30 games due to the fractured wrist, Longoria led all Major League rookies with 27 home runs and a .531 slugging percentage. In addition, he led AL rookies with 85 RBIs, 60 extra-base hits and 238 total bases.
Among the highlights from Longoria’s season were two game-winning home runs, the first coming May 9, when he hit a walk-off, two-run shot off Justin Speier to win it 2-0 against the Angels and make a winner of James Shields, who threw a one-hitter. The other came at Oakland, where he hit a two-run homer off ex-Ray Chad Gaudin in the 13th inning to make it 7-5, Rays; Tampa Bay held on for a 7-6 win.
On Sept. 18, Longoria hit 3 home runs in one game against the Twins, making him the second player in Rays history to accomplish the feat (Jonny Gomes hit three on July 30, 2005 against the Royals ). By doing so, Longoria became the first rookie third baseman to hit three in one game since Eddie Mathews in 1952.
Longoria played excellent defense throughout the season and finished the season with a .963 fielding percentage, which ranked him sixth among AL third basemen. And he played his first professional game at shortstop on June 29 against the Cubs. It was alos against the Cubs that Longoria began making a name for himself in the AL.
With the game close, the Cub’s Reed Johnson put down a slow rolling bunt down the thrid baseline and Longoria sprinted in and threw off-balance to first to nail Johnson within a half a step for a critical out in the game against the Cubs. But that play was only one of many that made alot of people in baseball begin to sit up and take notice of this rookie.